A client screaming at his architect (from hongkiat.com)
No client names are mentioned. This essay will not kill my career, but I certainly have no shortage of battle scars from ridiculous clients. When it comes to what a client can demand of their architect, I am sure that they are not yet done with me.
Architecture is a service industry. So while our art form pursues creative passions, we are here to oblige.
Unfortunately, architecture cannot exist without the client who hires the architect with a project in mind, with a location at hand, and with the wallet to bankroll the whole thing. Similar to a dentist, an accountant, and even a cobbler, architects are in a business that relies on customers.
I say ‘unfortunately’ because at times, I fantasize about creating architecture without the involvement of (meddling) clients. I wish to create designs exclusively of my interest and no one else’s. I am often envious of poets who have the luxury of writing poems as they choose. For the most part, poets don’t wait around to be contracted by a client, paid a retainer check, and then given the poem’s subject matter and stylistic direction.
Imagine this dreadful situation: A poet by legal contract composes four options for a poem, recites his work before a committee, and then must listen to the client’s so-called “constructive criticism.” The committee’s feedback usually demands the absurd combination of the content of the first option, the length of the second option, a few words from the third option, but with the tone of the fourth option!
Architects do so much for their clients that go beyond the industry of architecture. When designing a restaurant, I am asked my opinion of the menu, as if I am a food critic or chef. When designing a shopping center, I am asked my opinion on concepts for profitability, as if I am a financial analyst. When designing for a client, I am called upon to be a best friend, psychiatrist, marriage counselor, life coach, church member, gym buddy, car mechanic, or any such role that doesn’t actually relate to the skills I acquired in architecture school.
Guilty of profiling, I have categorized my worst clients. Those of us in any service industry know these customers. In an earlier draft of this article, I detailed rants for each specific client below. But life has enough negativity. Let’s leave my tirade as merely a list for your imagination.
The Indecisive and The Chaotic
The Yellers and The Whiners
The Bandits and The Delinquent
The Needy and The Insecure
The Haters and The Unhappy
The Narcissistic and The Conceited
There is no end to clients that are bizarre, melodramatic, thoughtless, dishonest, loathsome, and invasive—and even criminal. (I had one client that was found guilty of fraud, witness tampering, bribery, and obstruction of justice—in a murder case.)
Though there are indeed great clients—the ones that get me out of bed smiling, the ones that love the design process, the ones that beam with joy from our discussions—it is the scary client that keep me up at night. This client always has new ways to torture your architect.